It was my first time ever doing Zoom meetings, and I was nervous. You know the jittery feeling you get when meeting new people? Well, I definitely had that going on. This would be the first Housing and Homeless Advocacy Day (HHAD) meeting I had ever been to. I was really excited to join, since I had been homeless for 12 years myself and, had I not won the Section 8 lottery, would still be living in a shelter, and the bills we would be advocating for were to help more people stay in their homes. Although I had never been to a HHAD meeting, I went to Olympia with Seattle Education Access (SEA), recently changed to Northwest Education Access (NWEA), around the same time last year to advocate for their funding to continue.
So, on top of being nervous, I was also excited. I blame this on being in love with advocating for the changes that need to be made to make things more humane for our fellow human beings. Growing up in a household where I wasn’t really allowed to have a voice, let alone an opinion, gave me a very strong passion to stay motivated to make necessary changes in how the government is treating all of us.
Before the HHAD meeting, I was made aware of the bills we were trying to pass, and I was honestly astounded that some were even things that we needed to argue because they just seemed like the right thing to do in the first place. The bills we were focused on were HB 1277, SB 5160 and HB 1236.
HB 1277 is a bill focused on creating a new revenue source for eviction protection and rental assistance by increasing the document recording fee (a fee you pay when buying a house or property) by $100; SB 5160 is focused on helping people who are behind on rent due to the pandemic by ensuring that they will not be evicted currently and offering a payment plan option while also keeping them from being denied future housing opportunities for the inability to pay; and HB 1236 is focused on making it necessary for landlords to have a valid reason to evict their tenants with a 20-day notice. Right now they don’t technically need a reason so, essentially, can use this type of notice to discriminate.
As I said before, I was excited to help fight for these bills, but I will say that doing it through Zoom made it feel much less personal. Last year, in Olympia with NWEA, we would have a meeting and then go out into the big lunch room/lobby, get to know one another and also get ourselves ready for our next meeting. When I say less personal, I mean that in the Zoom meeting there were really no breaks. It was grueling work, and there were no opportunities to really get to know the other people who were attending. That being said, there was definitely the advantage added for people who are usually home bound and unable to make it to Olympia — I hope that maybe we can find a way to add a similar option for those people to communicate in following years if we get back to the norm after this pandemic. I think we should definitely keep the option to call in for public comment for those who aren’t able to make it to Olympia in the future.
In the end, I will say that meeting with my district legislator really refreshed my mind because sometimes I get so caught up in all the things wrong with the government that I forget to remind myself that there are still government officials who care. This is a huge reason to stay active in your local politics at least so you know who cares and who doesn’t. Then you can make the right decisions when voting! In all honesty, it seemed like just about everyone we met with cared.
Paige Owens’ badge number for Venmo payment is 14156. She posts up at the Redmond PCC Saturdays, Sundays and most Thursdays.
Read more in the Mar. 24-30, 2021 issue.